Looking for some input using ability modifiers for monsters/creatures when using their attack rolls.

The example would be a Level 1 PC vs a Twig Blight. This is assuming there is no advantage vs disadvantage.

Based on MM pg 32, Twig Blight’s attack is melee using its claws. Its Strength is 6 with a -2 modifier. The PHB on pg 176 refers to Strength modifiers, but it’s in the context of PLAYERS, not monsters/creatures. Does the same rule apply for monsters/creatures?

For example,
PC’s AC is 12 Twig Blight rolls a 12 - does it hit or miss?

Based on rules on pg 176 (assuming monsters have same rules as PC’s) the TB’s roll would be 12 – 2 = 10 so would miss. Please explain if that’s true or false using RAW with page number references if possible.

Sorry if this seems a simple question, but I’m just not sure regarding the ability scores for players vs monsters.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Referring to 5e edition - the +3 (if I understand) is referring to the TB's stealth. In this question's scenario, there is no stealth as there's no advantage or disadvantage. We're assuming they 'see' each other at the same time. Basically not sure if the modifiers on PHB 176 applies to monsters/creatures. \$\endgroup\$
    – HanzelMan
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 1:03

4 Answers 4


The twig blight hits.

Short answer: the "+3 to hit" notation in the twig blight's Claws action already accounts for everything that goes into the attack: proficiency, relevant stat, other modifiers (if they existed).

Modifiers to the Roll. When a character makes an attack roll, the two most common modifiers to the roll are an ability modifier and the character's proficiency bonus. When a monster makes an attack roll, it uses whatever modifier is provided in its stat block. (PHB p.194, emphasis mine)

Long answer: looking at the twig blight's CR (1/8) we know its proficiency bonus is +2 (MM p.8). Looking at the stated attack bonus (+3) we can see that it must be getting another +1 somewhere. Looking at the twig blight's stats we can see its attack must be indexed off of DEX (+1), not STR (-2). This makes thematic sense, as the twig blight's twiggy little claws could certainly have the finesse of, say, a dagger.

A close review of MM pp.6-11 and DMG pp.273-281 would provide all the detail one could possibly want on the subject. And more!

See also: how do I calculate an unarmed attack, specifically for slam?


The Twig Blight has the following action available:

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d4 + 1) piercing damage.

If it uses its claws to attack then it gets +3 to hit.

Where does this +3 come from (other than the action description)? The Twig Blight is a CR 1/8 monster and therefore has a proficiency bonus of +2. It has a Dexterity bonus of +1. Its claws are therefore being treated as finesse weapons, using Dexterity instead of Strength.

If instead of using its claws it instead took an Attack action to make an unarmed strike (why it would want to do so is irrelevant) then that strike would be made with a 0 (+2 proficiency, -2 Strength) bonus.


Unlike the immediately previous edition, 5e's creatures and players share the same rules, most of the time. That means the bonuses to skill checks, saving throws, attack rolls, and their ACs (for creatures wearing manufactured armor) are calculated most the same way. With a few notable exceptions.

The Twig Blight is one such exception. Before I start, you are missing a crucial part that the Twig Blight is proficient with its attack (even unarmed strikes that use Strength), resulting in an attack like this: Strength (-2) + Proficiency (+2) = +0 Attack Bonus. So with the roll of 12 + 0, the Blight is able to hit the AC of 12.

Now, normally all melee weapon attacks use strength unless the weapon is Finesse, and in that case, the Blight would attack at +0 (as above). But, creatures use a different rule. That rule is:

Calculate the Challenge Rating first, then work back to what attack bonus is appropriate.

This results in creatures using, somewhat arbitrarily, either Strength or Dexterity in their non-manufactured weapon attacks. For the Twig Blight, it would sound like an attack called "Claw" uses Strength, but since the resulting attack bonus is +0, and their challenge rating would go down if it were that way, we use Dexterity instead. To back this up, go to the very bottom of the Twig Blight's stat block, you'll see that the Claw attack has a +3 to hit, and not +0.

Another good way to demonstrate this is comparing the Twig Blight's Claw attack that uses Dexterity(+1) at +3 to hit, to the same Claw attack but from a Troglodyte that uses Strength(+2) at +4 to hit.

To sum it all up: it's not the stats that are important, it's the challenge rating. Is it arbitrary? Yes, but it's totally fair.


Yes, the DM should use monster's ability modifiers

For monsters ability modifiers work the same way they works for PCs. For instance, if you need to make a Strength saving throw for a Twig Blight, you are suppose to roll d20 and subtract 2 because of its 6 (-2) STR.

But they are already included in the attack description

Specifically for an attack roll, the DM don't have to calculate all the "to hit" modifiers. They all are already included in the monster's attack description:

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit


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